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4 Causes of Dry Feeling in Your Eyes

Do you feel like there is sand in your eyes when you wake up in the morning? Do your eyes hurt, itch, burn or feel gritty? We hear patients complain of having a difficult time opening their eyes in the morning and are sensitive to light.

If you feel like this, you may be suffering from a specific condition. The following four conditions can cause a gritty sensation in your eyes.

1.     Dry Eye Syndrome – Dry eyes of varying severity can cause uncomfortable, irritating symptoms. If your eyes are dry, your eyes may burn much more than they itch. Your vision may also seem to fluctuate a lot and it may take awhile to have good, clear vision in the morning. It is important to see your eye doctor because artificial tears and eye drops are not enough. Your doctor may recommend prescription or treatment options.

2.     Nocturnal Lagopthalmos – A condition where you sleep with your eyes open. In some people, the eyelids do not close all of the way, leaving the cornea of the eye exposed to the atmosphere all night long. Not blinking makes your eyes dry out and an inflammation, called keratitis develops.

Lagophthalmos can be caused by a few different conditions. In children, it is usually an anatomical issue that is outgrown quickly. Lagophthalmos can also occur from cosmetic eyelid surgery that was slightly too aggressive. The skin may be raised or tightened too much, not allowing a full blink or a tight close while sleeping.

Other conditions, such as proptosis caused by thyroid eye disease, can also cause lagophthalmos. People with nocturnal lagophthalmos should not be afraid to move from eye drops toward using thicker eye ointments to speed healing and reduce symptoms.

3.     Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is a relatively uncommon condition characterized by loose upper eyelids that easily turn inside out. FES is typically seen in overweight, middle-aged males. Some people with FES also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Occasionally, in people with FES, turning over while sleeping or accidentally moving a certain way on a pillow can inadvertently turn the eyelid inside out. Treatment for FES often includes artificial tears to reduce irritation and an antibiotic if signs of infection are present. Using tape or an eyeshield to keep the eyelids closed while sleeping may help keep the eyes from becoming dry.

4.     Blepharitis is a group of conditions that affect the eyelashes, eyelids and eyelid glands. Blepharitis is commonly caused by bacteria that is present on the skin, but some people, due to age, skin changes or lack of good hygiene, tend to build up more of this bacteria on the eyelids. Sometimes the eyelid glands can become plugged or infected, causing meibomian gland dysfunction or eye styes.

Blepharitis tends to cause eye redness and inflammation. People with blepharitis may wake up in the morning with more crusty eyelids. Sometimes dried mucus can fall into the eye, causing irritation or a sandy gritty sensation.

What To Do

If you wake up more than once with a sandy, gritty feeling in your eyes, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Your Optometrist will examine your eyes for signs of dryness or inflammation, such as keratitis and offer treatment that meet your needs.

Source:Review of Optometry, "Like Sandpaper in the Morning". 15 April 2012, pp 75-77.

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